In the introduction to Justice League: Cry for Justice, writer James Robinson claims that it is maybe the darkest Justice League story ever.
I actually bought and read this comic after buying Robinson’s first regular old Justice League story (which read like a mish-mash of semi-related stories with an inconsistent lineup of superheroes, but referencing Cry for Justice somewhat)… and the two could not be more different (despite featuring some of the same characters).
This story is a combo of a “gathering of eagles”-type that brings together some seldom-seen heroes (the 1970s blue Starman, Congorilla) and an overall tone of “man, bad spit be happenin'”.
And boy, is it bad.
Grant Morrison JLA villain Prometheus gathers any number of villains to do some science-disaster stuff, and it is really bad. I don’t really want to say specifically what, as the unfolding of the threat and how heroes in geographically different areas uncover the elements to its mystery is the essential process and experience of Cry for Justice, but it is quite bad.
The cast of characters includes big names like Green Lantern; “super pinups” like Starfire, Zatanna, and primarily Supergirl; and oddball heroes you have never heard of that James Robinson has a soft spot for, like a gigantic talking golden monkey. Per usual, he does a good job putting a story together.
From the other side, the Big Bad is the aforementioned Prometheus, and a cast of villains (many of whom I had never heard of before) used as chess pieces to get the good guys, often with no regard for their own safety. It is cool seeing super-torture from the side of ultimately lilly white souls, and bad guys misleading heroes mid-combat only to ultimately throw their own lives away in explosion after fiery holocaust (I told you it was the darkest Justice League story ever, already).
What’s Great About Justice League: Cry for Justice:
IMO, Three [big] Things:
- Its Gorgeous.
- The Story
- The Significance
I don’t know what the exact process is, but Mauro Cascioli’s art comes across like fully-rendered oil paintings. For the most part, only Alex Ross does that kind of stuff well, and the also-rans come off looking stiff or traced (or both), or badly sacrifice rendering and storytelling for the perceived painterliness of an end result. None of that here; Cascioli’s art has the fluidity and grace of storytelling indicative of a well-rendered conventional comics page, but just happens to be finished by a richer and more varied box of colored pencils, china markers, and oils (or maybe just really, really exacting Photoshop… who knows?).
I know I just got done publishing a comics review where I said the book [Batwoman: Elegy] didn’t look like anything else on the stands, and I certainly don’t want to make visual uniqueness unintentionally trite, but this book doesn’t look like anything else on the stands, either. Cascioli doesn’t have the variety of different finishes that JH Williams III does in Batwoman, but the cross-section of “good art” and “looks like a painting” is just a few microns sub-Ross (I mean that in the best possible way).
As for the story, I don’t buy many books on the strength of the artist, and I wouldn’t have known that Justice League: Cry for Justice was beautiful anyway, because I had never previously heard of Mauro Cascioli. However James Robinson is one of my all-time favorite comics writers (mostly on the basis of his [primarily] 1990s run on Starman). Robinson has some Starman favorites like the Shade and the blue Starman Mikaal Tomas (characters he didn’t create but most people either have never heard of or don’t care much about but he made layered and absolutely great in his own stories) feature prominently in the story; you can really see his love for comics and old / forgotten / still cool or rich characters unfold on the page.
I had heard about some of the crappy stuff that happened in this story from reading upcoming comics listings on various websites, and again, from the first Robinson Justice League trade (with Mark Bagley, that comes after Justice League: Cry for Justice), but rest assured, the bad things that happen are the kind that have a lasting effect on a character, like a bullet to the spine or a brutal beating at the hands of the Joker.
You would literally have to re-boot an entire universe to…
Oh wait… Never mind.
What Gave Me Pause About Justice League: Cry for Justice
While the core cast of characters — Green Lantern and Green Arrow primarily, along with Starman and Congorilla separately — is pretty constant, there often seemed to be minor stuff going on that was disconnected to what was actually going on. Like why bother putting Mon-El into one panel in the whole book? Let’s just randomly put Starfire in a bikini scene and joke about her being naked poolside sometimes! I mean sure, that is good for a LOL, but I get the feeling there were tie-ins with other titles or something that I wasn’t 100% apprised of as a trade paperback reader. I don’t know if the story would have suffered much with no Mon-El, no Starfire, whatever. As long as we follow around GL, GA, Supergirl, Starman, and the big golden monkey (and I guess the Jay Garrick Flash and his onetime archenemy Shade), we get more-or-less everything we need to out of the main story.
I didn’t / don’t hate-hate the side stuff like that, but it is semi-annoying.
Also, Scott Clark takes over the illustration chores for an issue or so. His pictures are reasonably pretty, but not as pretty — and certainly not as unique — as Cascioli’s in the majority of the rest of the book; that makes for a semi-jarring twenty-odd pages, especially given the expectation set up for the preceding 100 or so.
None of this really bothered me that much; quality book overall.
Why would someone buy Justice League: Cry for Justice?
I think the majority of buyers are either JLA zombies or like James Robinson. He is certainly not guilty of plastering an excess of commercially overblown characters all over every page, though he does an artful job of casting the absent Batman’s long shadow across the story entire; Prometheus has a very distinct agenda: He sees how Batman, “just a guy,” can terrify into submission not just cowardly criminals but also his crimefighting teammates. Prometheus wants to be — bereft of any Kryptonian DNA, magic words, or power rings — the villainous equivalent of Batman, the master strategist who bosses other villains about.
To that end Prometheus can convincingly hold his own against the entire cadre of assembled heroes. In a scene borrowing from Deathstroke the Terminator against the whole JLA in Identity Crisis (how great was it when Deathstroke swung his sword at Green Arrow, with GA ducking and Deathstroke “missing”… only to reveal the ends of all of GA’s arrows had been de-feathered by the “missed” sword-stroke?), Prometheus has a silver bullet for every good guy, moves around, dodges expertly, predicts who is going to attack from what angle, and manages to tear off heroic arms, burn off faces, break legs, split bodies in half, and generally kick buttocks aplenty.
You also get a chance to see the good guy equivalent of water boarding (along with the requisite objections from the team’s resident bleeding heart). Still, something some readers will cheer for.
Buy / Don’t Buy:
This is a strong superhero story. It touches on a sort of Authority-esque notion of proactive super heroics (the opposite of the traditional X-Men stance of waiting around for someone to attack them), but beyond a couple of questions of superhero morality (do superheroes kill? under what circumstances? should superheroes use torture to extract information? even from known killers? does giving someone a sinus headache count as torture?), it is “just” a darker look at a superhero team book.
If you love superheroes, again, this is a strong superhero story.
The art is very beautiful (for the most part).
The story is very engaging.
I personally adore James Robinson’s work.
(but not like “highest possible recommendation” buy, or anything)